Working in the aviation field requires specialized training, and professionals who work with avionic systems need some of the most technical knowledge. The avionics industry sets high standards for its workers, whose expertise ensures the proper operation of vital electronic systems for flight control, navigation and communications. Avionics offers four major career areas. The type of avionics career you choose often depends on your level of education and work experience. Some avionics professionals learn through on-the-job training, but most attend trade schools, including some that offer two- and four-year degrees.
Aerospace engineers design, develop and research the electronic components for mission-oriented atmospheric aircraft. While some work with rockets, most engineers work with manned vehicles, including military aircraft. The job requires a detailed focus on overall design, with emphasis on flight performance. Many engineering jobs require a master’s degree. Technical schools, colleges and universities provide both bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineers may work in one of three primary areas: aeronautics, astronautics or propulsion. Much of the job entails working in laboratories and on computers, performing field testing and writing white papers, research proposals and reports.
Mechanics perform regular maintenance and they inspect and repair faulty and damaged electronic aircraft components. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, avionics mechanics must earn airframe mechanic and powerplant mechanic certification. The Federal Aviation Administration, FAA, administers certification for mechanics. The certification requires at least 18 months of work experience. Most avionics mechanics learn about their profession by enrolling in an aviation technology, avionics or aviation maintenance program at an FAA-approved college, university or technical school program. Mechanics must have strong diagnostic abilities, good hand dexterity and good eyesight. The 2010 median pay for aircraft mechanics was $53,220.
Avionics Service Technicians
Technicians research, develop, produce, maintain and test aviation electronics. They work primarily with high-tech planes, military aircraft and space flight vehicles. Many technicians specialize. Some technicians work on the research and development side. They work for aerospace companies, universities, the military and government agencies to help engineers design and develop new components and improve others. To break into the field, you must attend a technical school, college or university with an FAA-approved program in aviation engineering. With continued education, you can advance to senior technician positions and aviation engineering careers. Technicians earned a median annual income of $53,220, according to a May 2010 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some avionics professionals choose to enter teaching careers. Often, their teaching careers follow a decade or more spent working as aerospace engineers, aviation mechanics or aviation technicians. Universities, colleges and technical schools, such as the esteemed Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, employ teachers who instruct the next generation of aviation careerists. They provide classroom instruction for courses in aviation electronics, structural and mechanical engineering and aviation mechanics. At Virginia Teach University, the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering employs 21 full-time faculty and 125 graduate assistants who provide classroom instruction and lead research programs. The 2010 median salary for postsecondary teachers was $62,050, and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most college-level teachers must possess a master’s or doctorate degree.